Joel Lee McDuffee

Joel L McDuffee

Group Leader, Irradiation Engineering

Mr. Joel McDuffee received a B.S. in Aerospace Technology from Middle Tennessee State University in 1989, followed by a second B.S. in Nuclear Engineering in 1994 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He then went on to earn an M.S. in Engineering Science and Technology, also from the University of Tennessee.

During his time as a student at the University of Tennessee, McDuffee helped develop a mathematical model for the production of transuranics in modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel particles and subsequent fission product transport from advanced fuel designs. He also served as a research student at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of the Advanced Neutron Source reactor design team. He was responsible for performing the first-level analysis of experimental data from the Thermal-Hydraulic Test Loop, a water loop designed to analyze subcooled boiling in small, rectangular channels in a high-heat-flux and high-mass-flux system. He later added a Monte Carlo analysis module to the data reduction program to allow the team to better understand the uncertainty associated with the onset of boiling based on the uncertainties of the experimental measurements that went into the estimate. 

Prior to joining ORNL as a full-time research staff member, McDuffee spent 10 years working as a risk and reliability engineer for the petrochemical industry. He performed consequence analyses for the process industries, which involved estimating release rates for single- and two-phase flows, often with mixtures of multiple substances, as well as atmospheric dispersion modeling of explosive or toxic releases. He also performed fault and event tree studies to estimate the frequency of loss events, as well as incident investigations to identify causal factors and root causes of chemical accidents.

McDuffee joined ORNL as an R&D staff member in 2004 to support fuels and materials irradiation research, primarily at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). He works with materials scientists from around the world to design and fabricate experiment facilities that can be used to irradiate various kinds of metal and ceramic specimens in a reactor environment at specific temperatures and fluences. The work requires a broad and thorough understanding of nuclear, structural, and thermal-hydraulic modeling, as well as engineering codes, standards, and welding protocols. McDuffee has also won research grants to advance the state of the art in fuels and materials research. In 2007, he served as the lead researcher on the design of an irradiation rig that can maintain a near constant burnup rate in a fuels test, even as the fuel is depleted during the irradiation period. In 2011, McDuffee was the lead investigator in designing a first-of-a-kind thermosyphon irradiation platform for testing fuels and materials in a passively cooled system without added risk of contaminating the research reactor’s coolant to fission products.

McDuffee has authored or co-authored more than 60 refereed journal and conference articles, technical reports, and conference summaries on topics ranging from failure modes and effects analyses, neutronics analysis, and finite-element methods development. He received as a co-author the 2003 P.K. McElroy award for best paper at the IEEE Annual Reliability and Maintainability Symposium.